By HENRY EMPEÑO
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Global cruise vacation giant Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) is eyeing the Subic Bay Freeport Zone as a regular stopover for its cruise ships that would soon cater to the developing Asian market.
According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Wilma Eisma, RCCL Vice President for New Business Development John Tercek visited Subic recently to assess its readiness as a cruise ship destination.
Tercek, who was accompanied by officials of the Department of Tourism in his July 1-2 visit, said the RCCL is catering to 2 million Chinese cruise passengers per year and is now developing new market destinations.
“If ready, we are considering the Subic Freeport as one of the nearest stops from Southern China to help address the cruise market demand,” he added.
Eisma said the Subic Freeport “is now ready to meet the demands of the cruise tourism market,” pointing out its previous successes in hosting cruise ships like Clipper Odyssey, Spirit of Adventure, and the Hanseatic.
“But now we could be looking at a regular schedule by Royal Caribbean, so we’re really excited with this prospect,” she added.
Royal Caribbean, which operates in more than 500 destinations on all the seven continents, owns and operates some of today’s most popular cruise ships like the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas that was launched in 2009 as the largest cruise ship ever built.
As a global cruise vacation company, RCCL operates three global brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. It also has interests in the German brand TUI Cruises, the Spanish brand Pullmantur, and the SkySea cruises.
During his Subic visit, Tercek inspected Alava Wharf where foreign passenger and military vessels are made to dock here, and received a briefing from Eisma on the heritage and history of Subic as a former naval base, as well as tourism business potentials in Subic and neighboring areas in Central Luzon.
“I can see the potential of Subic Freeport as a conventional cruise ship destination,” Tercek said. “But as we build bigger ships, you have to step up to address the demand.”
He added that if port facilities are ready, the RCCL usually starts with five ship calls per year for a destination with 3,000 to 5,000 passengers each. In the case of Subic, where there is good weather from November to April, however, it will be possible to have from five up to 30 ship calls, he added.
Tercek, who has created shore-side infrastructure projects and ventures to support RCCL’s strategic growth objectives, likewise told SBMA and DOT officials that RCCL looks forward to supporting infrastructure development that will compliment cruise tourism development in Subic, just like what they did in Vietnam.
Tercek, who was a partner in a Wall Street real estate investment firm, now leads in the development and management of RCCL’s interests in ports and commercial facilities around the world.
He is also in charge of determining the viability of the firm’s deployment in the region, as well as investment opportunities for cruise-related facilities and services.